Preparing for the At-Home Writing Retreat

This will be my first staycation without a bouquet of flowers on my desk. But it will also be my first writing retreat in years. In fact, the next seven days will be the very first official writing residency of my Accessible MFA. So to say I’m excited, even with the complications of COVID-19, would be an understatement.

At the start of anything, I like to set the bar high. So here are some things I’m aiming for during my week off for writing.

  • Social media for writing purposes only: I can tweet or blog about literature and writing and nothing else. (Honestly, this is more like checking whether my self-control has a fever or not.)
  • Two classes, readings, or talks each day: I actually have a schedule for this, just like I would if I were at a real writing residency or conference. We’ll see if migraines cooperate.
  • Daily work on a short story: I’m working on a Hansel-and-Gretel-inspired piece in the early stages, so who knows where it’ll end up.
  • Novel revisions: I think my novel draft is good. After 14 years off-and-on, I should hope so. But I want to see if I can make it really good. Here goes. I’ll start off with lots of structural revisions, and that’s where all the new recycled post-its and index cards come in.
  • Lots and lots of reading: After getting steadier work the last month, I have some money to splurge. So I have a stack of new books to indulge in.
  • Journaling each morning: I’ll sharpen my pencils and set out my vacation journal each day, so I’m ready to go with my coffee. I’m hoping the weather will be nice enough that I can do a few of these sessions on the back porch.
  • The usual day trip to kick things off on my first day: Which, since my husband and I are in self-quarantine after he was exposed at work, means an afternoon in the wonderful world of Animal Crossing.

Of course, before all the fun starts, there’s a plan to clean and vacuum the carpets, change all the sheets, dust and wipe down the apartment, and just generally do a day of spring cleaning. If my migraines allow, it’ll happen. And it’ll help me feel a little bit more like my week off is a treat. We’ll see.

I’ll let you know at the end of my time off what worked, what didn’t, and what changes I’ll make to my next writing retreat. Stay tuned.

And for anybody who loves the nitty-gritty, here’s the day-by-day breakdown of the retreat.

  • DAY 1
    • Spend the afternoon in Animal Crossing in lieu of a day trip
    • Journal about goals for the writing retreat
    • At-home facial, massage, and bubble bath
  • DAY 2
    • Build a fire on the second day after time on the porch and sit down with a craft book, a hot cocoa, and my outline to brainstorm structural revisions
    • Look over the #AWPVirtualBookFair and buy a book (also Nicole Oquendo’s latest, The Antichrist and I)
  • DAY 3
    • Second class of the residency: Anca Szilagyi on Powerful Objects (Inked Voices: I think you can access these pre-recorded webinars through their free trial)
    • Revisions
    • Outing; exercise; meditation
    • Writing before dinner
  • DAY 4
    • Third class of the residency: John Cusick (agent); Pacing: What to Cut, What to Keep (Inked Voices)
    • Novel revisions
    • Exercise
    • Short story writing before dinner
  • DAY 5
    • Fourth class of the residency: Sangeeta Mehta (editor); Main Plot, Subplot, and Threads (Inked Voices)
    • Novel revisions
    • Exercise
    • Short story writing before dinner
  • DAY 6
    • Last class of the residency: Anca Szilagyi (author); Contemporary Fairy Tales (Inked Voices)
    • Novel revisions
    • Exercise
    • Short story writing before dinner
  • DAY 7
    • Novel revisions or short story writing
  • DAY 8
    • Say farewell to the week and transition back into normal life

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